What are the tools that are needed to get started smoking food?
You will need:
A Weber Kettle with the 4 tabs holding the food support grill
A hinged cooking grate (food support grill)
A charcoal chimney
Good set of tongs
1 pair of oven mittens or Ove Gloves
Wood chunks for creating smoke flavor
And a container to hold a couple of quarts of water.
What is the best way to load fuel?Begin by install the Smokenator securely in the Weber. Depending on the model of your Smokenator, the Smokenator cavity will hold up to 60 briquettes for the Smokenator 180 or Smokenator 1000 or up to 80 briquettes for the Smokenator 2600 and between 4 to 5 ounces of wood chunks.
Remove the pan and pack the Smokenator cavity with the number of briquettes suggested in your instruction manual – usually 50 to 60. Lay the wood chunks on top of the unlit briquettes. Remove 12-14 coals and place in a chimney lighter. Light the briquettes and wait about 20 minutes or until they are white hot. Lay the lit briquettes in the Smokenator cavity through the holes in the top of the Smokenator. Put as many lit briquettes as possible in the hole where the water pan will sit. Use tongs to arrange the coals in the cavity.
Set the water pan in the hole. If it sticks up ¾” to 1” above the top it is alright, the grill will rest on it and eventually it will settle into place. Set the grill over the Smokenator if you are using the food support grill. Or set your 3” risers on the coal support grill if you are going to smoke a turkey. Fill the pan with water to about an inch or ¾” below the lip of the pan. Cover the kettle with the lid. Adjust the top vents as outlined in the instruction manual. Put your thermometer in the top vent.
Let the kettle temperature come up to about 180°F to 200°F. Set your food on the grill and cover.
I was wondering if I could use hardwood charcoal instead of Kingford?
In the Smokenator instructions you will find a whole section on how to use lump charcoal. We recommend carefully breaking the huge chunks into more briquette sized pieces. Pack the cavity with the processed hardwood charcoal and wood chunks. You will have to close the upper vents slightly more than you would when using charcoal, but by and large, there is no problem running the Smokenator with hardwood charcoal.
How do you light coals under the Smokenator?
The cavity of the Smokenator is filled with coals and wood chunks. Twelve to fourteen briquettes are taken out of the cavity and put into a charcoal chimney lighter and lit. Wait until the briquettes are white hot. Using Kingsford briquettes this typically takes about 20 minutes. Then the lit coals are placed in the middle of the Smokenator cavity, the pan is put in place and filled with water, and the kettle lid is set in place. The kettle is brought up to 180-200°F dome temperature before food is placed in the kettle. If more than 12 to 14 briquettes are lit, the temperature in the kettle will tend to go to 250 to 260°F at the dome and once this happens, will take over 30 minutes to cool off. The goal is to start with the right amount of coals to bring the kettle up to the 230-240°F dome temperature range.
How often does the water need to be added to the pan?
If the dome temperature is kept at 230°F, the water will last between 70 and 90 minutes. As soon as water rises above 230°F that water evaporates faster! That’s why some people report that the water evaporates at a faster rate than above. If the dome temperature is 250° to 260°F the kettle is running too hot and vents need to be pinched or adjusted to your kettle’s characteristics. Remember that for every 36°F rise in temperature one basically doubles the evaporation rate! However, as long as there is water in the pan the food will not dry out! As you mature as a cook, you tend the coals and water about once an hour. You will find that the fire spreads to the side away from the pan giving you a bit longer time between fill ups.
Does the removal of the lid significantly increase the cooking time?
The removal of the lid doesn’t affect the cooking time to any significant degree. Why? Filing only takes 5 seconds and if you keep the lid horizontal and move it about 8” from center exposing the pan so you can fill it, you actually don’t lose much heat as you will see if you watch the dome thermometer. The unit recovers temperature quickly. Think of it this way. Take a pan of water put it on a stove burner, bring the temperature of the water to 180 degrees, remove the pan from the burner for 10 seconds and see how much the temperature drops. Our guess is not very much. The same is happening with the food you are cooking which is 70% water.
The instructions provided give you exact instructions to achieve 210 °F to 225 °F at the food support grill. This is the ideal temperature range for low and slow cooking. Dome. 230-240 ° Grill 210-220° Coal support grill 175-185° As temperature gets above 260°F to 270°F at the dome vent, the food support grill temperature is usually about 10°F less.
When you use the Smokenator to smoke a turkey do you use both charcoal and wood?
Yes, do the “Minion Method” described in the manual. Get some wood chips or chunks – pecan or apple are good for turkey. We recommend using wood chunks to smoke the bird for about the first 4 – 5 hours. Four to five oz of wood chunks will smoke for about 1.5 to 2 hours. A 20 to 24 pound turkey takes about 7 hours to cook. Typically, it doesn’t need to be brined to retain moisture.